The World Health Organization describe vaccination or immunization as ‘the process where a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease.’
Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases worldwide. It is estimated to prevent up to 3 million deaths each year.
There are huge benefits to vaccination. Despite this there are many people who refuse to have vaccines for themselves or their children. This refusal is often linked to a mistaken belief about vaccines. In fact, an entire industry dedicated to the creation bizarre myths has been arisen. This article provides an answer to these myths.
Vaccines do NOT cause diseases
- It has been proven beyond doubt that MMR vaccination does NOT cause autism.
- It has been proven beyond doubt that hepatitis B vaccination does NOT cause multiple sclerosis.
- It has been proven beyond doubt that vaccines do NOT cause type 1 diabetes.
Normal immune systems still need vaccines
People who become infected with an illness such as measles will become immune to measles as a result. However, this person will have a 1 in 500 chance of death from measles. The risk of non-fatal allergic reaction to MMR vaccination is less than one in one million.
Healthy people can cope with multiple vaccines given at the same time
Worries have been raised that children who are given multiple vaccines at the same time will struggle with the challenge to their immune system. This has been proven to be untrue. Babies come into contact with countless bacteria and viruses every day and cope perfectly well. Immunizations present a negligible capacity problem to the immune system by comparison.
There are no toxins in vaccines
Vaccines are produced safely using very clean processes. People have worried about trace chemicals called mercury, formaldehyde and aluminium in vaccines. The amounts within vaccines are extremely small and are often less than normally circulating levels in the human bloodstream.
Vaccines do not give you a small dose of the infection being prevented
Many years ago an early ‘live’ poliomyelitis vaccine did cause some illness. This vaccine is no longer used. No other vaccine has ever worked in this way. Vaccines cause a change in the immune response by provoking a chemical cascade in the immune system.
Improved sanitation and vaccines are needed to reduce infections
Improved sanitation is essential to reduce disease. Clean water, better nutrition and modern antibiotics have all helped reduce the complications from infection. However, vaccinations have caused dramatic reductions in the rates of infection.
Some of the dramatic benefits following the introduction of vaccine programmes are described for measles, meningitis and polio.
Measles is an acute viral infection which can cause complications including ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhoea, seizures, and a serious central nervous system damage called post infectious encephalitis.
Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1968 in the UK, there were up to 800,000 each year with peaks every 2 years. When the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was introduced in 1988 and coverage exceeded 90%, the number of cases fell substantially.
Meningococcal infection commonly presents as meningitis or septicaemia.
The best evidence on the effectiveness of the meningococcal group C vaccine is a huge fall in the number of cases of meningitis after the vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1999. Since this time the incidence has decreased by 97%. Similar results have been seen in Canada and Australia.
Polio is a viral infection which attacks the nervous system. Early infection is often not apparent but symptoms can range in severity from a fever to meningitis or paralysis. Acute disease may present with fever, tiredness, headache, and vomiting, often with stiffness of the neck and back.
With the introduction of a vaccine worldwide, the number of cases has decreased dramatically. The WHO report a reduction of the number of children affected by polio from 1000 per day in 1988 to 5 per day in 2006. The World Health Organization has now listed many countries which have eliminated polio infection entirely.
This evidence and the long list of other illnesses prevented using vaccines has arguably been the single most important advance in healthcare in modern history. Countering the myths around the subject of vaccination is important in avoiding unnecessary suffering and death of vulnerable children and adults worldwide.
Dr Gerry Morrow – Medical Director Clarity Informatics
To learn more about vaccination see http://www.prodigy-patient.co.uk/